The standard desk height in the UK ranges between 72-73cm, and although desks of this height are found in offices all over the country, this height is most suited to people between 5’8 and 5’10 inches tall.
As obviously not everybody falls between this height range, in order to ensure that standard height desk users are comfortable, it’s important to consider the combined set up of the desk, chair and the positioning of the individual, plus any equipment they’re using. This will ensure desk users are in the most efficient, productive and comfortable position when sitting or standing at a standard desk height in the UK.
Read on as we cover everything you need to know about desk heights in the UK, including options on changing the height of your desk, how to set up your desk and chair properly for the optimum working conditions, and why it’s important to get desk height right.
What sizes do desks come in?
Desks can come in all shapes and sizes but for the purpose of this article, we’re really focusing on your standard desk height. Think open plan offices in commercial work spaces and traditional home office setups. Obviously there is plenty of scope to get a bespoke desk that is made to measure for your body but for now, we’re focusing on the humble, standard desk.
Most desks of this nature fall within the range of 725 mm and 730 mm high or 28-30 inches.
Although this desk height is pretty standard all around the world, it’s fair to say, as we touched on above, that people do not come in standard sizes! As a standard desk with the measurements above are best suited to people between 5’8 and 5’10 inches tall, this means that anyone that is much taller or shorter than this may struggle to sit comfortably without giving serious consideration to the whole desk setup including chair and body positioning.
This is why, when planning a professional office refurbishment or sprucing up a home office, it’s important to ensure that the size, shape and working preferences of people who will actually be using the desk are considered, along with the chairs and space they need to work comfortably for long periods of time.
Why is desk height important?
Desk height is important because it affects user comfort which in turn affects productivity and long term health.
We all know that we work better if we’re comfortable, and that being comfortable impacts our energy levels, health, productivity and quality of work. It’s fair to say then, that if you’re constantly adjusting your chair to find a comfy position to work in, or your elbows are by your shoulders, because your sat at a desk that is too high or low for your body, then you’re probably not going to be getting much else done at work that day. You could run into muscle pain when sat in the same less than optimal position for days, months and years, as is likely in any job or hobby that requires regular time at a desk.
The process of considering people’s efficiency in their working environment is known as ergonomics. Simply put, ensuring an ergonomic setup between a person and the equipment they use to complete the tasks and processes they complete on a regular basis will ensure they are more likely to be productive and comfortable, leading to a better output at work.
Empowering staff to be as productive as possible can be a game changer when it comes to an organisation’s bottom line, so it’s good to know you can achieve this with a little planning in regards to desk height, seating options and space available in your office environment.
Although this may all sound complicated, getting the right ergonomic setup with a standard height desk can easily be achieved by following a few simple rules around the office chair, desk user positioning and desk height, all of which we’ll cover in more detail below.
For optimum productivity, consider these three simple things when using a desk:
Desk user positioning
Relationship between worker and desk
To achieve an ergonomically optimised set up when working at a desk, you need to consider the desk, the chair and the seating position of the person using it.
A correct set up between all three when sitting will ensure:
Both feet are flat on the ground
Keyboard, mouse or other equipment on the desk are in line with elbows
Knees and elbows should be at right angles to the floor
Monitors should be at arms length away and below the horizontal optical axis
When using a desk and chair that is set at the right height for the user, they should be comfortable and have no pain from prolonged periods of use. Even when sitting correctly at a desk it is always advisable to take regular breaks where you get up and walk around to encourage blood flow and to reduce eye strain, particularly if using a computer all day.
How high should a desk be?
We now know how high a standard desk is going to be, but how high should it be?
The answer to how high a desk should be, really depends on the person using it. We know that a person’s height will impact how comfortable they are when using a standard desk height, but we should also give consideration to particular body types and proportions and how this can impact working efficiency too.
For example, if somebody has very short arms, a long neck, or particularly long thighs in relation to their calves, when in the same seated position as somebody else of the same height but different body proportions in these area, there would be a big difference in the levels of comfort both users would experience at the same height desk. It is therefore imperative that desk users give proper thought to their body’s position using the simple checklist above and the tips on measuring desk height below when using a desk to prevent undue stress on joints and muscles.
Measuring desk height
The best way to determine how high a desk should be, is to measure the desk in relation to the person who will be using it. To measure how high a desk should be, it’s a good idea to follow this rule of thumb:
when the desk user is sitting down, their elbows should be level with the top of the desk.
If the user is working at a standing desk, then the top of the desk should be at elbow level when standing.
To ensure your desk is at the right height, your elbows and underarms should lie straight on the table with relaxed upper arms. If the desk is too low, your spine will curve forward to compensate and if the desk is too high, your shoulders will rise, putting unnecessary stress on your neck muscles.
Adjusting desk height
As desks tend to come in standard heights, it’s important to know your options for making your working space fit to your individual needs. This includes how to add height to a desk or how to lower the height of the desk.
Fully adjustable desks can be expensive, but so can treatment of pain for long term use of a desk that is poorly suited to the person using it. Therefore, some of the simple tricks below will help you to adjust the height of the desk you already have.